A individual who sends out satirical tweets that I enjoy each day tweeted this this morning:
Today is “Earth Day”, or, as conservative evangelicals call it, “Thursday”.
I had to laugh it this, because it is both funny and true.
Today is Earth Day here in the US. It is a day where we are supposed to be mindful of our environment, and specifically how we are either destroying or preserving it. Many evangelicals like to snicker at the concept of Earth Day. There are probably many reasons for this.
Confusion of the Creator/creation distinction- Many zealous earthy types of have exchanged the glory and truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation instead (Rom. 1.22-25). This is idolatry. And it should infuriate any who love the glory of God.
Distortion or Exaggeration of facts for political gain- There is the flat out distrust by many as to the merits of the claims that many make concerning the environment.
An association with being liberal- Let’s face it, when we think about being environmentally conscious we do not think of Bible quoting, church going folks. When we are not thinking of politicians here, we tend to think of hemp wearing, hybrid driving, shampoo avoiding, granola eating people who are probably not going to churches.
So my question is, ‘Do Christians share a common concern for the earth and the environment?’
Good Fodder for Jokes?
I have heard many Christians make jokes about how God is going to destroy this earth anyway so why bother. Further, others mock such concern as liberal. Is this right? Do we have no concern?
I think that many evangelicals may be hastily reacting against the body of work by such environmentalists rather than carefully considering where there may be something to learn (or at least be reminded of or provoked to think upon).
Is there a Biblical Basis here?
Consider the early chapters of Genesis.
(Gen 1.28) And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Here we see the actual bestowing of dominion over the earth to man. Robert Reymond observes that “It is because man is God’s image that God bestows dominion over the world upon him” (Systematic Theology)
Man was to subdue the earth. This is domination and ruling terms.
But not only this, the book of Genesis goes on to tell us of further instruction for Adam concerning the earth:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it (Gen 2.15).
Adam was given a specific task to perform “to cultivate” and “to keep it”. The first word, translated cultivate, literally means to serve. And the second term translated here as ‘keep it’ literally means ‘to guard, to watch over, or to care for.’ This brings to mind the idea of stewardship.
Anthony Hoekema observed:
…so not only was man commanded to rule nature, but also to serve in it and to care for it. “If human beings had been commanded only to rule over the earth, this command might easily have been misconstrued as an open invitation to irresponsible exploitation of the earth’s resources. But the injunction to work and take care of the Garden of Eden implies that we are to serve and preserve the earth as well as to rule over it.” (Created in God’s Image)
As image bearers, with a motive towards the glory of God, humanity is to cultivate and keep the earth. To know the earth the God has created and we can enjoy.
It is a Gospel-Centric World-view that is needed
As gospel believing, Christ exalting, people we are to think and live rightly in this world. This includes how we think about and interact with not only God, people, but also this world. It is a testimony of the deceptive nature of sin and the perversion of idolatry that unbelievers, without care or thought of God and his glory, would be entranced with a desire to preserve, enjoy and honor the earth. At the same time it is a testimony to the deceit of sin that believers can now, with gospel eyes, be flippant, unconcerned with this world that God created. Let’s be honest, if we were talking about cars many Christians think of this world as a rental they can abuse rather than a lease that they have to (with accountability) care for.
Let’s be clear, we are not to come to a redwood and hug it and sing how great thou are art to the tree, but to come to the redwood and raise our hands to the heavens and cry, ‘How Great THOU Art!’
I know I have work to do. And the work starts with saturating myself with the truth and benefits of the gospel.